Gamecocks fall 9-4 to Gators in series opener

Gainesville, Fla. - Florida starting pitcher Stephen Locke worked into the ninth inning and the Gators erased an early two-run deficit with nine consecutive runs on its way to a 9-4 win over South Carolina on Friday evening in game one of a three-game SEC baseball series at McKethan Stadium.

Florida improves to 29-14 and 11-8 in the SEC while the loss drops Carolina to 9-10 in the conference. Both teams meet in game two on Saturday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports South and can also be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network.

Locke limited Carolina for most of the evening as he allowed just four runs, two earned, on six hits with six strikeouts and four walks. The six strikeouts ties a career-high. He improves to 3-0 on the year. Carolina starter Sam Dyson suffered the loss and is now 6-3 on the year. Dyson allowed six runs, five earned, on nine hits with four strikeouts and three walks.

South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the top of the second inning. Justin Dalles opened the frame with a single and Bobby Haney drew a one-out walk to give Carolina a pair of runners. Locke would then have some control problems as a passed ball on catcher Teddy Foster and a wild pitch by Locke scored Dalles for the first run of the game. Carolina increased the lead to 2-0 in the top of the third with the second unearned run of the game off of Locke. Jackie Bradley, Jr. had a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second by Andrew Crisp. On the play, Locke was unable to field the ball allowing Crisp to reach on a fielding error. Bradley, Jr. would eventually score on a RBI ground out from Parker Bangs.

The Gators would get a run back in the bottom of the third inning as they also scored an unearned run. With two outs and runners on first and third base, Avery Barnes went for the steal at second base. As he drew attention to the Gamecock defense, Mike Mooney was able to score before the Gamecocks registered the putout giving Florida its first run of the game.

Florida would go ahead 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning with a little small ball as the Gators would not get a ball past the infield but scored three runs off of two walks, two infield hits and two sacrifice bunts. Teddy Foster and Mooney got things started for the Gators as they both drew walks to give Florida two runners with no outs. Avery Barnes would then drive home his first run as he drove a bunt base hit past Dyson on the mound and in perfect position. Barnes would reach base on the hit and Foster would score all the way from second base. With runners still on first and second with no outs, Daniel Pigott would lay down a sacrifice bunt to put runners in scoring position. The Gators again caught a break as a high chopper by Preston Tucker allowed Mooney to score and Tucker to reach safely on a base hit. With runners on the corners, Barnes would score the third run as Florida's Josh Adams put down the squeeze bunt giving Florida a two-run cushion.

The Gators extended the advantage to 6-2 in the sixth inning as Foster delivered with a two-run homer to right field, his third of the season. Florida would tack on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth, all coming with two outs. Tyler Thompson and Preston Tucker collected RBI base hits and Thompson also scored on a failed pickoff by Gamecock reliever Will Casey.

The Gamecocks would score two runs in the ninth inning as Whit Merrifield and Nick Ebert each tagged Locke for solo home runs. Merrifield's homer was his eighth of the season with Ebert collecting his 15th on the year.

Florida out-hit Carolina 13-6 for the evening. Barnes, Tucker and Mooney all had two hits apiece. All nine starters for Florida had at least one hit in the contest. Justin Dalles was 2-for-4 to lead Carolina. Merrifield's homer extended his hitting streak to eight games.

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